There are a handful of movies that I enjoy more than the books. I know that sounds sacrilegious because the books are always supposed to be better, but in reality that is not true. Sometimes, movies are an opportunity to fix plot or characters problems in the book. Like the ending of The Painted Veil, or how annoying Katniss is in The Hunger Games. Or, in this case, the ineffective writing of The Maze Runner.
You can read my summary and review of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner here, but to recap: the concept is good, the execution of the concept, not so much. The writing isn’t that impressive, and the narrator is kind of annoying, but a movie can fix that with better writing and good actors, and that’s what the people behind The Maze Runner movie did.
Some stories lend themselves more naturally to movies than to books, if the story is very visual or action packed, for example. I think The Maze Runner played out much better on screen. You have a visualization of the strange creatures known as Grievers, you can better feel the tension between the group of boys, you’re out of Thomas’ head (thank God) and can get into the drama of the story’s events better. But what really carried this movie was the acting of the boys.
Dylan O’Brien stars as Thomas, the protagonist who wakes up in a place called the Glade, the safe haven in the middle of the Maze. He doesn’t remember who is he or where he came from, but he has a strong desire to find a way out of the maze. And he has the courage and wits to figure it out. I think O’Brien is an incredible actor (if you don’t believe me, watch his performance as Stiles on MTV’s Teenwolf, he’s amazing) and he makes Thomas so much more likeable than in the book.
The other stars are Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who plays the second in command Newt. Besides being adorable with his British accent, he also gave a stellar performance. As did Will Poulter, who played the bully/bad guy among the boys. (Think Jack, in Lord of the Flies.) Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, and Blake Cooper also did a great job in their roles as Alby, Mihno, and Chuck, respectively. Honestly, the most lack luster performance probably came from the girl Teresa, played by Kaya Scodelario. Though her first real scene was entertaining, she didn’t really have much to go on after that and the movie could have functioned without her character at all, though that isn’t the actresses’ fault. The author and producers probably thought the story needed some estrogen in it. (Though the dynamics happening between the boys were interesting enough, so I don’t agree.)
The boys were the best part of that movie. The actors really came into their characters, and good performances like that are what invest an audience in the story. I felt way more invested in the movie than I did the book because the Dylan O’Brien and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (my two favorite) make you care about the characters and what happens to them. That’s the job of the actors. And they did it well. They made The Maze Runner a movie worth watching.